William ‘Will’ Mailly was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on 22nd November 1871. He took up work as a coal miner in Alabama when he was 19 and was soon an active member of the United Mineworkers of America. By the time he was 23 he had been blacklisted in the Alabama coalfields for his part in a strike. However, what was unusual is that this born-in-the-USA working class fighter had been educated in Liverpool and spent his early teenage years around the streets of Toxteth as an errand boy.
His Scottish-born parents had emigrated from the USA when Will was two, coming to Liverpool where they lived at 5 Lonsdale Street L8 at the time of the 1881 census. Lonsdale Street ran between Grove Street and Crown Street, its path now being taken up by the Liverpool Women’s Hospital.
He would not have recalled anything of life in America but aged 18 he sailed back and started looking for work. After the blacklisting in Alabama he began to work for the socialist movement, joining various organisations until becoming a founding member of the Socialist Party of America in 1901. In 1903 he took on the role of the party’s National Secretary and stayed in the post until 1905. After that he had various posts with socialist publications . His final job was with the New York-based monthly The Metropolitan Magazine but shortly after moving there his health declined and he died aged just 40 on 4th September 1912.
There are not many sources of information about Will Mailly. The Wikipedia entry provides the basics. At the marxisthistory.org website there is a contemporary assessment of Mailly by George D Herron, apparently written shortly after his death. This gives a better feel for the man and his contribution to the ever-difficult course of socialist thought in the USA.
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